Preview: Leicester v Racing 92

Date published: April 22 2016

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Two-time champions Leicester Tigers will be dreaming of making a first final since 2009 when they face Dan Carter's Racing 92 on Sunday.

Back-to-back winners in 2001 and 2002, Leicester have emerged from a barren run in Europe over the last few seasons to return to a familiar stage in Europe for Tigers supporters, and they've been treated to some special rugby along the way.

Aaron Mauger's arrival as head coach and the signings of Peter Betham and Telusa Veainu in the backline, combined with Manu Tuilagi's return to fitness, have made the Tigers a joy to watch again.

They destroyed Stade Français two weeks ago in the quarter-final, while Racing's long-awaited triumphed over Toulon was more about power and composure.

Carter has been a magical signing for Racing – missing just one of 20 shots at goal in the Champions Cup this season, giving him the best success rate (95 percent) of any of the 24 players to attempt 10 plus place kicks – but France's last man standing have a host of weapons in their arsenal.

In the pack where rising star Camille Chat and Wales lock Luke Charteris are in top form – the Wales lock having the most lineout steals this season (5) and the second most tackles (91/94) – not to mention the potent finishing of Juan Imhoff and Brice Dulin.

Racing owner Jacky Lorenzetti has been dreaming of silverware for so long now and knows it's within touching distance. The hungry Tigers however lie in wait.

In team news, Leicester have announced an unchanged team as Richard Cockerill sends out the same 23 players who lined up for last weekend's league win at Northampton Saints.

After Sam Harrison made his 100th club appearance in the win at Franklin's Gardens, this weekend it is the turn of second row Graham Kitchener to reach that mark, while Logovi'i Mulipola is also in line for his 100th appearance after being included among the replacements.

Ben Youngs, who made his 50th European Cup appearance in the quarter-final win over Stade Français at Welford Road, partners Freddie Burns at half-back.

Director of rugby Cockerill said: "We went with the same group of players last week because we wanted to build momentum and we've had three good wins in three big games over the last three weeks with Gloucester, Stade Français and Northampton.

"It is good to keep combinations together, we've been in pretty good form and it's nice to pick from a settled squad.

"Sunday will be a great occasion. We're going to enjoy it and give it everything we've got."

Meanwhile, after several changes ahead of last weekend's Top 14 trip to Toulouse, Racing have reverted to their strongest side for the trip to Nottingham.

Racing's backline is unchanged from that semi-final win over Toulon with Dan Carter fit enough to start at number ten alongside Maxime Machenaud in the half-backs.

The two changes are in the front row, with experienced France hooker Dimitri Szarzewski missing out through injury as Virgile Lacombe gets the start over Chat.

Ben Tameifuna is the other change at tighthead prop, with Luc Ducalcon named amongst the replacements.

Form: Sunday's semi-final will be the first time the clubs have met in European competition. Leicester have progressed from five of their previous six tournament semi-final ties; their last win at this stage was against Cardiff Blues in 2009 following a place kick competition. This will be Racing 92's first appearance in a European semi-final. Only once in their last 20 fixtures against Top 14 opposition have Leicester won back-to-back matches (v Montpellier in 2013/14). On the last five occasions that Racing have played Premiership opposition, they have conceded 12 points or fewer (W3, D1, L1); four of these games were against Northampton Saints. Leicester are the only side in this season's Champions Cup to achieve a success rate of 90 percent or better at both the scrum (91 percent) and lineout (92 percent). Racing have conceded the fewest tries (7) of any team in the competition this season. Leicester, meanwhile, have scored the most (30). 

The teams:

Leicester: 15 Mathew Tait (c), 14 Telusa Veainu, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 Vereniki Goneva, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Opeti Fonua, 7 Lachlan McCaffrey, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Dom Barrow, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Harry Thacker, 1 Marcos Ayerza 
Replacements: 16 Greg Bateman, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Fraser Balmain, 19 Ed Slater, 20 Tom Croft, 21 Sam Harrison, 22 Owen Williams, 23 Adam Thompstone

Racing: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Johan Goosen, 12 Alexandre Dumoulin, 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Chris Masoe, 7 Bernard Le Roux, 6 Wenceslas Lauret, 5 Francois van der Merwe, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Virgile Lacombe, 1 Eddy Ben Arous
Replacements: 
16 Camille Chat, 17 Khatchik Vartanov, 18 Luc Ducalcon, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Antonie Claassen, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Rémi Talès, 23 Louis Dupichot

Date: Sunday, April 24
Venue: The City Ground, Nottingham
Kick-off: 15:15 BST (14:15 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

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